ENCOUNTERS “The world is a book and those who do not travel read only one page.”
– St. Augustine
An Inside the Vatican pilgrimage is a total immersion experience—unrepeatable and unforgettable, informative and transformative. Our focus is not solely on the stones of the churches and basilicas we visit in places like Assisi, Norcia or Rome, but also on those living stones which are the souls of the people we encounter in these places — the Franciscan Sisters and Brothers of Assisi, the Benedictine Monks of Norcia, the Vatican Cardinals and Monsignors, the Swiss Guards in Rome and even ourselves, the pilgrims.
Our encounters are encounters of faith
“The traveler sees what he sees, the tourist sees what he has come to see.”
– G. K. Chesterton
We can’t stress enough that our pilgrimages are not for “tourists,” who have an itinerary of sights they visit and photograph and leave. Our pilgrimages are journeys of faith which incorporate unique, unscripted opportunities for encounter with unforgettable people of faith, whether we are in Thomas More’s cell in the Tower of London, or the childhood home of Pope Emeritus Benedict in Bavaria, or the backyard garden of a new friend we have met in Ukraine. Even the small hotel owners who hug our pilgrims goodbye become a part of the fabric of our pilgrimage experience.
One priceless example of “encounter”: on one of our trips, the cardinal who is in charge of the basilica St. Paul’s Outside-the-Wall, a personal friend, accepted our spur-of-the-moment invitation to have coffee with our group and accompanied us as we walked through the basilica, pointing out fascinating features of the architecture and symbolism and relating little-known stories of its history. Due to Dr. Robert Moynihan’s 25 years of work in and around the Vatican and the Universal Church, his exclusive connections and friendships, such spontaneous, unrepeatable encounters are not rare.
Christian living means dying with Christ and rising again with Him. That is part of the meaning of baptism, the starting point of the Christian pilgrimage.
Our eight or nine days together become a type of mirror of our entire life’s journey of faith. The pilgrimage takes on the characteristics of a retreat, of a seminar, almost of a liturgy, drawing us into our own depths and in so doing, drawing us closer to God. There is an ebb and flow on a pilgrimage, moments of movement and moments of stillness; moments of exteriority and moments of interiority; moments of waiting outside a basilica, and moments of standing in the presence of the greatest saints of our tradition. And this ebb and flow can bring us finally to an interior metanoia, a change in how we view our lives, our faith and our relationship with God and with one another.
Whether encountering a university professor, a local historian, or your own Pilgrimage Leader, you are in touch with people who have the deep insights on issues closest to the hearts of Catholics in the world. In addition, often we are able to meet with experts and newsmakers of the day to discuss current events. Sometimes the topics are spiritual; others, they are historical, cultural or controversial; always, these candid discussions add a rare texture to the trip as our pilgrims come to a deeper appreciation of the Faith, and the Church’s place in the world.
Whether walking through St. Paul Outside-the-walls Basilica with Cardinal Harvey, sharing tea with with Cardinal Arinze in his apartment, or meeting the local bishop of a city, our pilgrims are given an insider’s scoop of about the past, present, and future direction of the Church by some of the important shapers of society today.
And always, we make it possible for pilgrims to experience these precious moments of encounter, these strands woven into the rich and varied tapestry of our Christian spiritual heritage, without worry or distraction. Peace of mind is an essential ingredient to spiritual renewal, and we do everything in our power to ensure it for our pilgrims.